It’s hard to imagine where the world would be without Nikola Tesla. He was a giant in his field and even today, almost everything we touch has been influenced by Tesla. But why don’t we know about it?
He believed that we should be broadcasting electricity for free, like radio waves, and figured out the mechanics of how to do it. He also made the basic plans for things like television, faster cars, and a slew of other inventions. And before Einstein proved light worked like a particle, Tesla had. Before a physicist proved that atoms were similar to solar systems, Tesla had theorized about it. Yet, he never won a Nobel Prize like Einstein or the Spaniard that proved atoms were like miniature solar systems.
Tesla was different, even for a genius. He was into numerology and believed we should be actively searching for extraterrestrial life. These things were used against him by two very powerful figures.
The first is JP Morgan. Morgan gave Tesla money to build a radio tower. Tesla used that money to study if we could safely transmit electricity through the ground, making it free. Needless to say, this pissed JP Morgan off… a whole hell of a lot. Morgan was one of the most influential and wealthy men in America. It would be like pissing off Rockafeller.
Then Tesla compounded his problems by pissing off Thomas Edison (yes, the Edison that created the modern light bulb). His worst offense, was probably when he started telling anyone that would listen that Edison would only advance science if there was money to be made in it. However, they had been feuding for a while before he started doing that.
Morgan and Edison made sure they ruined Tesla. They highlighted all of his failures and like any scientist, he had some. They highlighted his eccentric nature, by reminding anyone and everyone that Tesla believed in numerology and that we should be searching for intelligent life beyond our own planet. However, most importantly, they used racism to destroy his credibility. Tesla was a Serbian living in the US. After the assassination that would lead to the outbreak of WWI, fears of Serbian assassins was a real thing. The political group The Black Hand was taken as a serious threat. Morgan and Edison both hinted that since Tesla was Serbian born, he might have ties to The Black Hand political group.
Tesla would eventually work with men like Einstein on projects. But his reputation was never repaired and he died living under a different name in a hotel room. He has also never been given any high awards for scientific achievement, even though he is one of the founding fathers of modern physics.
Recently, my interest in Tesla was renewed when I started watching reruns of the show Murdoch Mysteries. I was impressed that they took the time to do some redeeming of Tesla’s reputation, making him seem like the eccentric genius that he was, not the crackpot that Morgan and Edison painted him to be.
Ok, I’m off for a couple of days. Probably no contact with the outside world until Monday. Wedding happens Saturday!